“Well, maybe you should write this homework assignment yourself!” The back-talking student retorts to a teacher’s request… “I’d like to see you run this work-out!” Says the athlete to coach (which probably earns extra laps). Kids crave validity. They want adults who demonstrate and lead by example, rather than simply lecturing. As teachers, mentors, and ministers, we are called to show our children how we want them to live. It is one thing to talk through a story or show fun felt figures marching across a flannel graph. Activities, games, crafts and snacks are wonderful ways to reinforce messages of the Father’s love and the tales the Bible communicates. However, those lesson components only go so far, and unfortunately they often don’t go past the doors of the classroom. If we want our lessons and platitudes to truly sink in, we ought to live them out, leading by example to communicate what children ought to pick up.
So how can we set a solid example for students? Whenever possible, offer students practical “assignments” and methods of living out lessons– and do them yourself. Perhaps this means volunteering outside of church, or keeping a journal, or writing someone a special note. Tasks may vary depending on the age and activities of students, and opportunities provided in and out of church. The point is to do something. It is also critical that kids see you taking steps to live out faith and demonstrate love. Maybe you greet congregants before a church service, sign up for a volunteer duty, or help someone in need. Children are watching even when we least expect it. In and out of a classroom or study, possibilities are endless to exhibit authentic faith.
And what if lessons are offered in a more closed setting, or students are younger and unable to witness actions outside of your teaching? Use your own stories as an example, positive or negative, and don’t shy from the “horror stories” of poor choices or less-than-perfect experiences of the past. Kids often appreciate or learn the most from recognizing that even adults mess up sometimes, and that’s okay! Encourage children to come to you for support or advice, and create a welcoming environment for that to take place. It will go a lot further than a flannel graph…
In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. -Titus 2:7-8